Unless you’ve been under a rock or out of the country for the last two weeks you know that the biggest story in sports media is free-falling NFL ratings on television. All of the league’s primetime television windows are down and down by a large enough percentage to send the NFL into a prevent defense mode.
While there are a number of theories about the NFL’s slip in ratings – from the presidential campaign to quality of play – cord cutting and cord shaving have to be at least some factor in the NFL receding from its television peak, as it is for numbers across the television industry.
The NFL can at least take heart in the fact that one streaming service, Sling, is actually crediting their partnership with the league and being able to show Monday Night Football and NFL RedZone.
“We’re having record-breaking days,” said Sling TV Chief Product Officer Ben Weinberger, when we asked how their new streaming agreement with the NFL has been going.
“Monday Night Football pay television ratings are tanking, but our Monday Night Football viewership numbers are breaking all our own records, increasing week over week. I think there is so much pent up demand for streaming live sports, and people want an alternative to pay television,” Weinberger stated.
For those less familiar with Sling TV, they offer live streaming of several cable and broadcast channels for between $20-40 a month including ESPN, NBC, FOX, and more, with the ability to add specific packages that include channels like the NFL Network and NFL RedZone.
Streaming the NFL is no simple task, however, with both the technical and contractual details being massive undertakings. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get the NFL to play ball in the first place, and HD streams of each game can be extremely resource intensive. While Sling faced its share of problems following the launch last year, we have noticed complaints on social media drastically declining, implying that service outages are becoming less common.
“In 2016, we’ve focused on a couple key things, scalability and infrastructure,” said Weinberger.
Weinberger hinted that negotiations with the NFL were time consuming, but well worth it. Sling has seen massive subscriber growth this fall as live streaming of games has been a major draw for new members.
This won’t be the last time we see a story like this in the sports media world. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this become a major trend over the next weekend. As more and more people leave cable and satellite behind and go to streaming and digital, it won’t just be league or sports network packages that will pick up increased viewers. It’ll be streaming services like Sling as well.
The sooner leagues like the NFL can realize that this is a large portion of the future of watching sports, the better off they will be in the long run. It may not do anything to help the current narrative out there about falling TV ratings, but it can be at least a way the NFL and other leagues make sure fans don’t totally abandon their product.